Arctic Cooling’s Freezer A30: A Review

Cheaper than chips, and overbuilt to boot.

Arctic A30 (1 of 7)

There are three things that attracted me to the Arctic Freezer A30: price, direct contact heatpipes, and a replaceable 120mm fan. The Arctic A30 is what $30 worth of cooling looks like these days. It’s an imposingly large hunk of aluminum and copper. Most of its style is derived from the cuts Arctic made into the aluminum fins and the black plastic fan shroud that holds a single 120mm fan onto the heatsink using large plastic clips that seat into the sides of the cooler.

Arctic A30 (2 of 7)

The A30 has eight copper heatpipes that all meet up at the base of the cooler and, if you installed it right, sit on top of the heat spreader of your CPU. The Arctic i30 is an almost exact copy of this cooler, but with Intel mounting hardware rather than the AMD mounting flanges that came with this A30. The mounting hardware itself is pretty versatile and can be configured to mount the heatsink to face any of the four cardinal directions of your motherboard’s CPU socket. The stock AMD socket back plate is reused to mount a pair of metal flanges that the A30 can be torqued down onto using the included metal (not wood) screws that Arctic provides with the A30.

Arctic A30 (3 of 7)

Admittedly clearances are rather tight when you’re installing the two screws at the base of the heatsink. But it’s doable as long as you’re not using a stubby screw driver or an electric drill like some kind of motherboard bending monster. Another quibble is the directions pamphlet which is minimalist to say the least. Luckily the A30 has a is a pretty simple mounting scheme.

Arctic A30 (4 of 7)

One of the key features of the A30 is its direct contact heatpipes that replace traditional copper heatsink base plates in the hope of more quickly transporting heat away from the CPU’s integrated heat-spreader. I have no way to compare this configuration to a standard copper based plate, but conceptually this cooling strategy seems to hold water. More to the point temperatures were well controlled by the A30 even under Prime95’s blend stress test. Thus at the very least direct contact heat-pipes didn’t compromise the performance of this cooler.

Arctic A30 (5 of 7)

I picked out the A30 to replace a stock 65 Watt AM3+ cooler from a few years ago that was having trouble coping with the thermal output of the FX-8320e underneath it. This is a role that it’s more than qualified for. Somewhat ironically I hadn’t even considered replacing this old stock cooler until AMD started showing off its new Wraith cooler. Although it hadn’t bothered me before, it was at that point that I realized that maybe the shrill whine of this stock cooler was something worth attending to.

Arctic A30 (6 of 7)

As I hope this image makes clear the A30 is an absolute monster compared to AMD’s 65 Watt stock cooling solution. Outside of the performing the same basic functions these two coolers are really rather dissimilar.

Arctic A30 (7 of 7)

And now there’s a monolith of metal sitting at the center of my motherboard. Perhaps the coolest (pun intended) thing about the A30 is that it’s fan shroud is removable. So if you don’t like the fan Arctic ships with the A30 or it breaks for what ever reason it’s easy to swap out for any standard 120mm case fan. Of course that’s a feature that I will probably never use given that the A30’s fan is a very unobtrusive low RPM unit. It is a variable RPM fan, but whether at idle or under full load it’s effectively inaudible. Especially when there’s an old R9 290X press sample with its infamous stock cooler sitting next to it.

After three hours of running Prime95’s blend stress test SpeedFan reported a CPU Core temperature of only 30 degrees Celsius in a room with an ambient temperature of about 20 degree Celsius. The A30’s was whisper quiet and the heatsink was barely warm to the touch. The north-bridge heatsink near the center of the motherboard on the other hand felt like it was about to catch fire.

In the end I’m very pleased with Arctic’s A30. Unfortunately I hear that they’ve just replaced it with a newer version dubbed the Arctic A32. A new model for a new year. But if that cooler is anything like this one, which it appears to be, then I doubt you’ll be disappointed with it.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.